About Tayron Lopez 

“There’s this quote that I found a while back in a fortune cookie,” said Tayron Lopez ’19, “‘When you act boldly, unseen forces come to your aid.’ I find that to be true, every time I dive into a project.”

The artist — who creates murals, sculpture, spoken-word poetry and other works under the name Taiitan — was describing his preference for sketching in ink.

“I feel like it builds trust between you and yourself,” he said. “I can’t erase marks. I have to just keep moving forward.”

The Act Boldly observation — attributed to writer Dorothea Brande, with a similar quote attributed to poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — also captures Tai’s experience after he made a bold decision to follow his heart.

Tai has carried a sketchbook everywhere since he was a child — but when he moved to the Capital District from the Bronx, it was to study culinary arts at a local community college. 

“I was leaving class early to go to the park before the sun went down, to do observational drawing,” he said. “That’s really what I wanted to be doing, drawing. Every opportunity I got, I was drawing.”

“I just decided that, hey, I don’t want to pursue culinary as a professional thing anymore,” he said. “That started the journey toward art, which led me to Sage.”

All Art + Extended Media students at Sage receive their own studio space, and just having that space to create was extremely important, Tai said.

Then, so many people offered assistance. 

Assistant Professor of 3D Art and Extended Media Billy Fillmore challenged Tai to deeply explore why he was creating what he was creating. 

Adjunct Professor Chris Lisio gave him an entire wall, which became the canvas for his first mural.  

Members of Sage’s facilities and public safety teams who were assigned to the Art + Design Building asked Tai questions about his work and showed appreciation.  

Director of the Opalka Gallery Judie Gilmore connected Tai with an internship with Breathing Lights, a multi-city public art project that generated significant attention. 

And Artist Stacey Robinson, who was part of the Opalka Gallery’s Afrofuturism-focused In Place of Now exhibit, mentored Tai through the MFA application process.

Today, Tai is in his second year at the University of Buffalo’s Master of Fine Arts program.

“Sage definitely helped me prepare for the next level,” he said, reiterating how important it was to be able to go into the studio whenever he wanted. 

“Sage helped me learn how to work with other people, but it also gave me that individual drive to work by myself and know what I want as an artist.”

“My practice lately has been focused on combining studies from psychology with art,” Tai continued, describing a particular interest in the subconscious, how it manifests in communities of color and how it can be accessed through techniques like automatic drawing. 

“I find that automatic writing and automatic drawing gives us that platform to speak to ourselves, but we have to give ourselves permission first to be that honest,” he said. 

Manga, the Japanese style of graphic novels and comics, is another influence. 

“Every character in manga gets their power from emotion,” he said, “and we feel that we’re able to relate to that as people who are often in very emotional spaces.”

As the fall 2021 semester began, Tai was preparing to start a mural on a new section of the UB campus and for collaborations with the African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region: He taught classes on making artwork with cardboard at the Cultural Center in September and October, and will have a solo show at the center opening on May 6, 2022. 

“A lot more work is coming, and I’m excited for it,” he said. “I’m excited for people to interact with it, I’m excited to see what people can get from it.”

His long-term goal is to create what he calls an “Arts Mecca,” with residencies for working artists and programs for youth. 

“I’ve been jotting down names on who I want to teach, what kind of programs I want, what it looks like in the end,” he said. “This momentum keeps running, the building gets bigger and bigger. I’m looking forward to seeing what turns out.”

Follow Tai on Instagram @taiitan

“Sage helped me learn how to work with other people, but it also gave me that individual drive to work by myself and know what I want as an artist.”

Tayron Lopez